What made the trip: First and foremost: Carnival Fascination Staff = AWESOME! You folks are a great bunch and many do not realize how you work your absolute tails off for your passengers. You can tell your company takes good care of you. The ship was clean, I felt safe at all times, and there were plenty of activities onboard for all ages. Entertainment staff, housekeeping staff, customer service staff, crew, dining staff, you can tell your heart is in the game and you love your job. Take that element out, and it would have turned a mediocre trip into an extremely poor one. Also, taking away the fleet-wide massively wasteful midnight buffet was a good move. On my first cruise when I saw this, sure I was amazed, but I was unable to keep the twinge of guilt from surfacing. There are other ways that the cook staff was able to show their culinary prowess.
What I found dissapointing:
It's one thing to offer an attractive price to sail on these ships. It's another thing to make it so obvious that as a company, Carnival is getting overzealous with their stingy cost reductions in order be able to come out smelling like roses in their financial reports. If prices are being reduced this significantly, please don't pretend to offer the quality of food and service that you claim you do. Passenger dissapiontment has been the result. The portions served with dinner were slightly above meager. My suggestion to counter this: Order more than one type of appetizer (like a salad with shrimp cocktail). The dining staff completely understands this and is more than happy to accomodate. Granted I do appreciate not being over-served, Carnival has gone too far into the meager side of the spectrum.
The number of times I had a drink staff person in my face (and then in my wife's face immediately after) asking us if we wanted a drink outnumbered the hairs on my body. This could be a good thing for some, but you can tell the drink staff is way overstaffed which has caused an obvious case of overcompetition between these folks in their conquest to maximize tip revenue. The same goes for the photography crew. I felt like between those two groups, I was not enjoying my vacation as much as I could have because I felt I was being constantly panhandled. I'm not adequately prepared for the paparazzi lifestyle. This was particularly annoying when I was conversing with my wife while walking from place to place. They would interrupt and even nearly step between us to ask if we wanted a picture.
Like I had mentioned earlier, the cook staff was able to show their culinary prowess at times on the cruise, but surprisingly, they failed or were made unable to do this at dinner time due to obvious budget cuts on the food procurement side. When I cruised in 2003 aboard one of Carnival's smaller ships, I remember the Chateaubriand steak being cooked to perfection. This time, Carnival got it all wrong. Allow me to quote Wikipedia: "Chateaubriand steak (also chateaubriand) is a meat dish cooked with a thick cut from the tenderloin filet, which, when properly prepared, is the most tender and flavourful cut of beef. . ." In August of 2014 aboard Carnival Fascination, all steaks were overcooked for this particular cut. These steaks were all, by definition, Well Done and were no more than 1/4 inch thick. I've had thicker steak on a fajita. This was odd since the tenderloin served a couple of nights before, which was cooked to order, came out spot on. This was my wife's second cruise (our first one together) and she actually spoke up first about this.
It doesn't end there with the dining experience. For the shrimp cocktail, we both remember the shrimp that were served on our first cruise being, by market standards, "extra jumbo-colossal". The shrimp served this time (on multiple nights), were no bigger than "small-medium". It's not like they made up for it in quantity either (4). The cooked shrimp dishes that were served however, were "Large-Extra Large". My wife had the penne mariscos on her first cruise. She remembered there being an abundance of seafood on her plate. This time around at our table of 6, three people ordered this dish, only one scallop was served. I had three pieces of shrip and two calamari rings. My wife only had one piece of shrimp.
One last item about dinner: They really class it up for dinner. It's a great and fun atmosphere. . .that is until they come peddling again for drinks, except this time. . .SHOTS!?! I was appauled when they came by after dinner one night peddling shots of PEACH SCHNAPPS! huh? Jaiger bombs are one thing, but this?
The 24 hour pizza buffet has obviously been required to cook pizzas on a just-in-time basis in order to save money. I found the heated area used to display cooked pizzas NEVER being utilized. This also resulted in a massive queue of 20-25 people during prime snack times. After a 20 minute wait, I would just have them plate whatever was on the prep table instead of waiting another 5 minutes for ordering one special.
All maps on the ship still show there being a sushi bar. I hope you read this because that has been discontinued and replaced with a "taste" bar, which includes various types of extremely meager portions of something usually fried or put into soup form. I wouldn't even call it an appetizer portion. I would call it a tease portion.
There is one marvelous thing about this area of the ship though at the pre-dinner/happy hour time. Select mixed drinks are only $5.00 (as opposed to the usual $8.75)!!!!!! This is where my wife and I would order 3-4 drinks each and beging muling them down to our cabin to store them for after dinner partying at which time happy hour prices expire. It really stinks having to play "short the drink market" on a vacation, but we made it work. Also don't save your free drink ticket until the last day at sea. Everyone else does that and the bar staff is overhwlemed. I waited 25 minutes for my free drink. Only get the bottomless drink card if you plan on drinking 11-12 drinks per day, EVERY day ($97 per day,per person @ $8.75 average price per drink). Also, if that decision is made, you have to get one for everyone in your cabin. Soda card only saves you money if you plan on drinking 15-16 sodas per day ($37/day @ $2.50 per 12 oz. portion of soda).
Due to rough seas our snorkeling tour was cancelled and fully refunded.
This left us to dealing with the sports rental staff for a kayak. The staff in the number 2 shop were obviously not happy with their life. The lady talking to me came off as rude and lazy, was not courteous, and just stared at me when I talked to her. I asked her if I could rent a kayak. She responded with a prompt and unfriendly "It costs $44". Then she just stared at me as if that would make me go away for some reason.
I noticed this with the staff that Carnival has contracted to handle passengers arriving on their private island.
The Jerk chicken at the BBQ there was amazing.
Great boat staff. Very competent and safety conscious crew aboard the "Sweety Pie". Free drinks onboard. Great to get out on a fun boat and get some wind in the face. People that were renting jet skis were not being safe and were getting too close to the boat. If you do rent a jet ski instead, take extra care to maintain situational awareness at all times. People are idiots.
Offered as part of the Catamaran excursion. Snorkeling was fun and offered mediocre view of sea life. Reefs were in decent shape.
Also, your ship is only at port for 8 hours. So don't try to do anything too complicated.